Back to Basics (3)
The Weekly Meeting
At our November meeting of the Concilium Officers (2009) to plan for the coming year we decided that the deepest renewal of the Legion all over the world would best be achieved by going back to the basics of the spirit and government of the Legion. We go backwards only in order to go more truly forward. With this aim n view we began with the Legion Promise. It is important to be always aware of what the Legionary has promised the Holy Spirit and Mary with a view to bringing Jesus into the center of our own personal lives and to ensure that the Legion is everywhere and at all times absolutely christocentric. The presence of Jesus comes into the world through the relationship of the Holy Spirit and Mary. The legionary seeks to enter into that mutual and intimate relationship.
Now we wish to reflect on the Standing Instruction that is so important that the President of the praesidium must read it prayerfully and attentively at the first meeting of every month. The first item of the Instruction may seem to be very matter of fact and surprisingly simple and perhaps even uninspiring but it contains a limitless possibility for holiness and an extraordinary power for apostolic fruitfulness. It reads as follows: ‘Legionary duty requires from each legionary:- First, the punctual and regular attendance at the weekly meetings of the praesidium, and the furnishing there of an adequate and audible report on the work done’.
The question arises: why does the Handbook and why does Frank Duff throughout his life put so much emphasis on the weekly meeting of the praesidium? The Handbook puts the importance of the weekly meeting this way: ‘This weekly meeting is the heart of the Legion from which the life-blood flows into all its veins and arteries. It is the power-house from which its light and energy are derived. It is the treasury out of which its own special needs are provided for. It is the great community exercise, where someone sits unseen in the midst of them according to promise; where the peculiar grace of the work is bestowed; and where the members are imbued with the spirit of religious discipline, which looks first to the pleasing of God and personal sanctification.
‘The legionaries shall therefore regard attendance at their weekly praesidium meeting as their first and most sacred duty to the Legion. Nothing else can supply for this; without it their work will be like a body without a soul. Reason tells us, and experience proves, that neglect in regard to this primary duty will be attended by ineffective work, and will too soon be followed by defection from the Legion’s ranks.’ Those are very striking words indeed.
Still we ask why the weekly meeting is the primary duty of every legionary. Well, first the praesidium is a cell of the mystical body of Christ; it is a place where we meet the Risen Christ alive and acting in his body. Where two or three are gathered in his name there He is in their midst. We come to pray with Our Lord and to plan with Him to play our part in the work of the salvation of souls. A Legion meeting is not like a Board of Management meeting or any other type of purely secular committee meeting with secular goals and ethos. It must always be primarily a meeting of a cell of the mystical Body of Christ and that is its essential ethos. Its ultimate goal must always be the salvation of souls. The Legion must always have an eye on eternity and it seeks with its whole being that souls should enjoy eternal life in heaven. Other organisations may deal with the praiseworthy and important aims of saving the body and political goals but the Legion is unswervingly focused on the health and eternal life of the soul.
Inseparably linked to the fact and conviction that the praesidium is a cell of the Mystical Body of Jesus and therefore a special presence of the Risen Lord is the truth that the Praesidium is also a special presence of Mary to the meeting, Mary is the mother of the Mystical body and wherever you have a cell of this Body you will have a special presence of Mary mothering and working through its members. The Handbook puts this truth very cogently: ‘That apostolate is united to and sustained by the mothering of Mary “who gave to the world the Life that renews all things, and who was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role” (LG 56). She continues to fulfil that role through the ministry of those willing to help her. A praesidium places at her disposal a group of loving souls eager to help her in that office. It is certain that she will accept that aid. Therefore a praesidium may be imagined as a sort of local presence of Mary through which she will display her unique gifts and reproduce her motherhood. So it can be expected that a praesidium, which is true to its ideals will bestow around itself life and renewal and healing and solutions. Places with problems should apply this spiritual principle.’ I think that fidelity to the weekly meeting is a very practical way of practicing central aspects of St. Louis Marie’s true devotion to Mary.
Finally, the praesidium meeting is a Cenacle experience: A gathering of disciples around Mary with a view to receiving the Holy Spirit and therefore to be sent out as missionaries of Mary to wherever the spiritual needs of people are most urgent and profound. So to go to a Legion meeting should be to go to a place of grace and joy and apostolic zeal. It should be an experience of Pentecost. In our efforts to go back to basics I think it is of supreme importance to go back to the doctrinal foundations of the weekly meeting.
In our next Allocutio we shall tray to show how the practical details of a praesidium meeting can and should be sources of great grace and growth for the Legion and its individual members.